Kevin Wooldridge had regularly taken his mobility scooter on train trips to and from annual family holidays in Devon. There had never been a problem. He would make his way to Cosham station and use a ramp to board the train.
But when he rang to check about making the same journey this year, the rules had changed. Rail firm First Great Western told the 50-year-old, who suffers from emphysema, that his scooter was too big to go in its carriages.
This despite no mention being made of any potential problem when he and his family originally booked their tickets.
The end result? Major inconvenience to Mr Wooldridge, plus the costs of a taxi to the station and hire of a wheelchair so he could go with the rest of his family on a visit to Paignton Zoo. The rest of the time he was left to struggle along on foot.
While appreciating First Great Western’s duty to ensure the safety of other passengers, we are left concerned about Mr Wooldridge’s treatment. More and more people are using mobility scooters as a means of getting around, so others will also get a nasty surprise when trying to travel by train.
Why can’t trains accommodate these scooters? In the old days, there would have been a guard’s van for stowage. Now people like Mr Wooldridge are simply told that their scooters would be an obstruction.
The other issue is that of the ramp Mr Wooldridge normally uses to get on trains without incident. All of a sudden his scooter is too big and could apparently cause the ramp to tip over.
Dan Panes, a spokesman for First Great Western, says: ‘Users now have to apply for a permit which proves their vehicle doesn’t exceed new weight restrictions.’
We’re not against the introduction of permits, as long as obtaining one is a simple procedure and not bogged down in bureaucracy.
But they don’t help people like Mr Wooldridge, who now find themselves persona non grata on certain train services through no fault of their own.
Let the train take the strain? Not, it seems, if your scooter is of a certain size.